WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Few of us can run off

to the wilderness or hermitage

so the older religions

to break us out of 

our normal, comfortable, sleepwalking trance

help us get into liminal space

through pilgrimages, fasting, silent retreats

Lent or Ramadan.

You are baptized with the Holy Spirit

not by believing in the Holy Spirit

as a doctrine, but by drawing upon

the Divine Indwelling already within you.

According to Thomas Merton

the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church

so when the Holy Spirit prays within you

whether in public or private 

it is the Soul of the Church 

praying within you.

Bad things happen to good people

but the Holy Spirit is always present

prompting you from within 

to take care of your self

and comforting you from within 

when your health, work, or marriage  fails.

Quantum theology befriends and redeems

the pain, the dark, the chaos

by helping people see the interdependence of

darkness and light

pain and pleasure

sickness and health

death and rebirth.

The Holy Spirit shows us

there is a virtue to be practiced for every sin: 

pride/humility, anger/patience

avarice/compassion, lust/chastity

gluttony/sobriety

all the Enneagram

vices and virtues.

If you are engaging with those

who have not suffered

“rings of fire”

your attempts to explain

the reasonableness of faith

or prove God’s existence

will fail.

Systematic atheism insists

humans must be free

of any kind of God

as their author and goal

in order to be responsible 

for their own life.

Since YOU are your own author, goal and end

you cannot foist off onto God

responsibility for your own life.

Atheism relies upon science

but science believes only 

what can be physically located is real: 

cells, brains, stars.

So science scrubs the universe clean of

values, meaning, consciousness, ethics and depth 

since these things cannot be located in the cosmos

they are unreal fantasies/illusions.

What Alfred North Whitehead called

“the fallacy of simple location”

leaves us with a culture of superficiality.

We are like seed 

that falls upon gravel

and withers because it has no roots.

Merton studied the “archaic wisdom”

of Mayans, Zapotecs, Toltecs

to learn how to counter the efficiency, ambition

and triviality of technocratic society.

Science saps us of passion 

but Eros is the Holy Spirit in action – and passion 

deserves a home among spiritual people 

– passion for pleasure and sharing it

– compassion: awareness of suffering 

– passion for restorative justice

– all these are works of the Holy Spirit.

LOVE YOUR TRUE SELF

RECONCILING ANCIENT RELIGION AND MODERN SELF-HELP 

    All world religions would agree with St. Catherine of Sienna who said “Every evil is founded in self-love.” So how do we put ancient religion together with the modern self-help doctrine that you cannot love others if you don’t love yourself?

    When we are born, we are unitive thinkers: we sense our oneness with everything. However, as we develop we learn the word “no” from our parents trying to curtail our behaviour. We start to separate from our parents and others and develop our own identity. We learn we are a boy or girl and a human being not a dog or cat. Later we learn our race, nationality and everything else that separates us from others.

    Developing a sense of identity or ego is natural, healthy, and necessary to function in the world. However, if you think your ego, what separates you from everything, is all you are, it creates individualism, the source of all our problems. The illusion of separation transforms your ego into your false self, and life becomes every one for himself/herself.  

    Separation from others causes all social problems, and separation from nature is the root of all environmental problems. If you are really separate from others and the planet, what happens to them is not your concern. You can misuse them without any consequences. However, what happens to others and nature does impact us.

    I was pondering why, in indigenous paintings, there are fish, bears, and birds inside peoples’ bodies? Suddenly I got it: indigenous people are unitive thinkers – fish, bears, and birds are part of who they are. They and the environment are one.

    This is the solution to our environmental problems: the earth is us and we are the earth. Until we get that, we will continue to abuse the earth we depend on.

    Jesus was also a unitive thinker. He said “God and I are one,” and what we do to the least among us – people who are starving, naked, or homeless – we do to him.

    He also said the second greatest commandment, after loving God, is to love others as yourself. Perhaps he didn’t mean, as contemporary self-help would have it. “love others by first loving yourself,” but rather “love others because they are yourself.”

    God is everywhere and that includes inside you, in your depths. As Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, frequently said “When you meet your deepest self you meet God.” 

    God is not only love, God is peace, goodness, wisdom, forgiveness, patience, and kindness, and so are you. Your true essence, your true self, is all these things. In this sense you and God are one. This is what being the “imago dei,” the image of God, means. You are not God, God is greater than you, but you and God are one in spirit. 

    That is why it is good to love your true self, your soul, the self that is love, peace, and goodness. When you love your true self, you are loving God within you, and since God is in everything, you are loving everything through God. When you love all the virtues of your true self, you are doing exactly what others and the earth need: people who love peace, goodness, and love.

    It is necessary to develop an ego, but it is also necessary to transcend the ego and realize that you have a larger, truer self. It is not healthy or wise to just love your ego, your false, illusory self. Loving just your ego is the root of all evil as St. Catherine said. She was thinking of love of the false self; contemporary self-help is presumably thinking of love of the true self, which is the foundation of all good.

    What we need now is a civilization built on love of the true self, the soul, our best self, our “better angels,” not one based on love of ego, our “worst demons.” This would solve many of our problems.

    As another holy woman, Mechthild of Magdeburg said:

“The soul is made of love and must ever strive to return to love. Therefore, it can never find rest or happiness in other things. It must lose itself in love. By its very nature it must seek God, who is love.”

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage coach, and religious educator of adults. www.brucetallman.com. For his weekly reflections on spirituality, see “The Big Picture” at https://brucetallmanblog.wordpress.com